VS Naipaul
Nobel Laureate and author VS Naipaul speaks during the inauguration of the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, Feb. 25, 2005. Getty Images/ RAVEENDRAN

Nobel Prize-winning author Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, popularly known as VS Naipaul or Vidia to those who were close to him, died in his home in London on Saturday at the age of 85.

“He was a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavor,” Nadira Naipaul, his second wife said in a statement.

Although well-known for writing race and religion-sensitive books like “A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961), “In a Free State” (1971), “Guerrillas” (1975), “A Bend in the River” (1979), “The Enigma of Arrival” (1987), the Trinidad-born author’s personal life became the talk of the society after his biography “The World Is What It Is” by Patrick French was published in 2008.

The book laid bare all the behind-the-scenes details about his first "loveless marriage" to Patricia Hale; a mistress he allegedly sexually abused, Margaret Gooding; and his attempt at a second marriage with Nadira Naipaul.

Nadira Naipaul

Vidia met his second wife after he flew to South Asia to write his book “Beyond Belief” when his first wife, Hale, was on the deathbed, fighting cancer in 1995. He was introduced to a 46-year-old journalist who wrote under the byline “Nadira” at American ambassador’s house party and the two of them immediately hit it off.

Nadira reportedly asked him whether she could kiss him on their first meeting, and Naipaul replied, "I think we should sit down." Even before his first wife’s death, Vidia had proposed marriage to Nadira and the two of them tied the knot two months after Hale’s death in 1996.

In the later stages of his life, Vidia became dependent on Nadira for even the smallest of his needs, according to Mail Online. She started attending his calls, filtering out the unimportant from the significant ones. Nadira also became an unapologetic defender of her husband’s public image as a misogynist, infidel who abused women for fulfilling his own twisted sexual fantasies.

“Do I look like the kind of woman who takes abuse?” she told Mail Online back in 2009. “Not at all. I’m very happy — terribly happy with my life. There are other writers who have more sordid lives — why focus on my husband? Everyone has an experience, everybody does it.”

She also the lashed out the biographer whose book had helped expose the dark side of the Nobel laureate. “Patrick French should stick to writing about dead people. But the book has changed nothing in our lives. In fact, it’s better, much better, absolutely better,” she said.

Patricia Hale

“I think that consumed her,” Naipaul said about Hale, to his biographer, “I think she had all the relapses and everything after that. She suffered. It could be said that I killed her. It could be said. I feel a little bit that way."

Naipaul met Hale when he went to study at the University of Oxford on a scholarship in 1950. Although they were drawn toward each other due to their commonness – both having come from a humble background — cracks in their relationship were apparent from the very beginning.

Naipaul described their initial sexual encounters as “fumbling and awful for both of us. Pat was very nervous. I wasn't trained enough or skilled enough or talented enough to calm her nerves, probably because I didn't want to calm her nerves. It didn't work."

Nevertheless, both of them — 22-year-olds at the time — got married in January 1955. Een months after the wedding, Naipaul failed to present Hale with a wedding ring.

"I do feel the lack of a ring very acutely," she wrote to him in a personal letter, which was later accessed by French. "You did promise, and I will think you don't quite realize how odd' it seems to people."

Unknown to Hale, Naipaul began visiting brothels in 1958, mostly to satisfy his sexual desires. Soon he began keeping a mistress on the side — Gooding with whom he would frequently travel across the globe — about which he confessed to his wife later.

But even after knowing about his mistress, Hale did not leave her husband.

"Pat treated him with great reverence," one of the couple’s few mutual friends said, Elle magazine reported. “It was -almost like appreciating a deity. She was awed by him, and I think it made it -difficult for her -because she was aware that she had to do her bit to encourage the flowering of his talents... She was a very -Indian wife in many -respects—more Indian than most Indian wives."

Margaret Gooding

Gooding was a married Anglo-Argentine woman, who was 10 years younger than Naipaul. They met in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Gooding left her family to be with the author.

What started as a passionate relationship, quickly transformed into her being forced to satisfy his sadomasochistic urges, according to French. Naipaul recalled in the biography that Gooding was having “a relationship with a banker to get to me... I was extremely upset... I was very violent with her for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt... She didn't mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my -passion for her. Her face was bad. She couldn't -appear, really, in public. My hand was -swollen. I was utterly helpless."

Although Naipaul claimed that Gooding enjoyed being the submissive-kind and thrived on the cruelty he inflicted on her, Gooding wrote in response to a review of French’s biography, “Vidia [Naipaul] says I didn’t mind the abuse. I certainly did mind.”